Sadly, this year is still plagued with uncertainty, from the status of the pandemic to component shortages to questions about inflation. Beyond that, the year so far provides a picture of what a post-pandemic industry will look like, in both retail and consumer tech trends.
NPD Group, in a forecast issued in August, predicted a seven percent increase in industry revenue, despite a one percent decline in unit sales. However, the research firm predicted a seven percent decline in revenue in 2022, with unit sales dropping six percent.
“Following the historically high sales in 2020 and 2021, we are anticipating near-term declines with a slow climb back to normalcy by the end of 2023,” NPD’s vice president and industry advisor, Stephen Baker, said in the August forecast.
In an interview with Dealerscope in early December, Baker laid out some expected trends in 2022.
“The first half of the year will be very difficult,” Baker said. “The comparisons to 2021 are extraordinarily challenging. In fact, Q1 2021, in terms of growth, was the highest growth number of all the pandemic quarters to date, so we have very difficult comparisons in Q1.
“You put that on top of the fact that we’ve had pretty close to two years now of an elevated sales environment, and at some point, the market is going to take a little more of a pause than it has, to absorb the new products.”
He added that, with hardware, install bases have gotten younger, leading to less replacement. In addition, he said, the “elevated cost environment” will continue to have an effect, with prices going up and demand going down.
The new year kicked off with CES in early January, but in the meantime, here are some looks at what to expect from the consumer tech world in 2022:
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in its forecast for the 2021 holidays, listed TVs as among the top wish-list items for consumers. And CES in 2022, like every other year, is going to feature TVs as among the most prominent products. Samsung is believed to finally be taking the wraps off its “QD-OLED” technology, which is said to combine all the best aspects of OLED and QLED TVs.
“The total TV market will be challenging, certainly, from a unit perspective,” Baker said. “But if you break it down, we see the premium markets and the larger screens far outperforming the overall environment for televisions.”
- Digital health and safety tech
The pandemic has brought health into focus as never before, and in that holiday forecast, the CTA found that nearly a third of those surveyed were “interested in smart or connected health monitoring devices.”
Another category along those lines is digital therapeutics, sometimes called DTx, which includes everything from digital exercise programs to “virtual reality-based mental health apps,” CTA said in October. CTA recently convened the first accredited standards for digital therapeutics.
- Smart homes
The smart home is going to be “one of the best-growth categories in 2022,” Baker predicted. He added that with the pandemic receding, consumers are likely to be looking more at security solutions, especially as the smart home “has become more ubiquitous.”
After a long series of security breaches and hacks in 2021, 2022 is shaping up as “The year of cybersecurity,” according to Security Magazine. The magazine predicted that in the new year, government regulations are expected to arrive dealing with how companies should handle cybersecurity concerns.
“Yes, it represents added pressure and cost, but most changes should already be practiced by most organizations, and they do indeed elevate the security posture,” the magazine said.
Drones have been a rising product for the better part of a decade. Analytics Insight recently listed some of the latest trends for drones, including in agriculture, construction and mining, and law enforcement, while the products continue to be used for recreational purposes.
And while the plans by Amazon and other companies to use drones for delivery have gotten a great deal of media attention, they’re still not ready for prime time.
“It’ll be a niche, as it is now,” Baker said. “There are a lot of challenges around that mode of transportation [and] we’re very much now in the testing phase.” He added that the business applications are where the potential is for drones, and “it will never be a significant consumer market.”
- Food tech
The “food tech” category comprises everything from innovation in shipping and packaging, to the making of food itself.
In 2019, the Impossible Burger 2.0 was the surprise winner of Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES Award, even though it’s hard to see it as tech in the traditional consumer electronics sense. And yet, the company, along with other next-gen, plant-based foods, are now staples of CES. More of the same is expected at CES 2022 and beyond, with David Bchiri, president of U.S. consulting firm Fabernovel, telling the International Business Times in November that 2022 will mark “the crowning year of food made from plant-based proteins.”
- AR, VR, and the metaverse
Some sectors of the tech industry have gone all-in on the “metaverse,” most notably Facebook, which changed its name to “Meta” in the fall of 2021. And while most agree that full implementation of the metaverse remains a ways off, some of the products that will tie in with it are already available and thriving.
“Virtual-reality hardware, like the Oculus, has been one of the big winners this holiday,” Baker said. “And we would expect those kinds of products to do very well in 2022 as well.”
- Back-from-the-dead product categories
There were some product categories, most notably webcams, that were thought to be relics of the distant past, until the pandemic made them suddenly valuable, and even occasioned shortages for a time. With the pandemic receding, what’s the future of the categories that got a new lease on life in the pandemic?
“They’re not gonna sell the kind of numbers they did in 2020, but a lot of those kinds of categories have found new life, both for communication, [and] for creator environments.” Baker added that microphones and digital picture frames have remained successful even after the lockdowns in 2020.